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Mike T | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Sep 17 2009 10:12 AM

 

Thanks MJ and Bill for the links to these commentaries...  It is nice to know that others have interpreted these verses within the same framework.

And thanks MJ for increasing my vocabulary!  However, political correctness has never been my strong suit (although I am working on it).   Confused

To be honest, I am a bit frustrated by the popular rejection of allegory as an interpretive method.  If we define allegory as "a representation of an abstract or spiritual meaning through concrete or material forms; figurative treatment of one subject under the guise of another," then it seems impossible to me to read scripture and not employ allegory.  I suppose a pantheist might have not problem with literally portraying Christ as a vine or a lamb, but I have yet to meet a professing pantheist...  The argument of literalism vs. allegory is no different than the old argument between Aristotle and Plato.  And just as true science has never occured without the influence of both philosophies, I believe that both are critical to constructing true theology.  Neither one nor the other will suffice alone...  What we seem to lack is criteria to evaluate the validity of an allegorical interpretation, which would probably result in an indication of certainty on a continuum rather than a dichotomous valid/not valid appraisal.

I am seriously considering writing a commentary that would employ both the grammatical/historical and the allegorical methodologies, but fear that most would dismiss it immediately due to the allegorical element without even giving it a fair consideration.

 

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Robert Pavich | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Sep 18 2009 6:30 AM

Michael,

I hope you don't mind me chiming in but I think I can summarize the reason for allegory getting the bad rap that it has.

You can allegorize ANYTHING. Even what i just wrote....but the question always is; where do we stop?

I believe that trying to get to the "authorial intent" just precludes this approach.

Is there allegory in the bible? Sure; just like there are all kinds of other literary devices to make certain points, but allegorizing can easily be over done.

I think that grammar, syntax, historical context, and overall context carry a lot more weight than any allegorical suppositions.

 

just my 02cents.

Robert Pavich

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Posts 286
Dr. Charles A. Wootten | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Sep 19 2009 4:47 AM

Huh?Now THIS is going to be an interesting discussion. By the time the RSS feed got this to me the discussion was already on the 2nd page. The first page carried some really good views that I intend to look at a bit more closely, but almost got exciting.

What I mean by "almost got exciting" is that I was hoping to see the ancient controversy between the Alexandrian and Antiochene schools approached again with you guys. (Yet "...both hermeneutical camps agreed that the Hebrew Scriptures ought to be approached typologically"   [David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1996, c1992], 3:435) simply to make it easier to point toward Jesus Christ.)

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Posts 602
Bill Anderson | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Sep 19 2009 8:55 AM

Michael,

Your welcome for the link. I wouldn't characterize the historical-redemptive method as allegory, but rather the consistent application of the hermeneutic which takes seriously both the immediate and broader contexts of Scripture and emphasizes that all of Scripture points forward to Christ and is fulfilled in Him.

Another example might help. Take Psalm 23. In this psalm, David writes as the Shepherd King of Israel (2 Sam. 5:1-5) and as a sheep himself. This is key -- David is Shepherd and sheep. Most interpretations of this passage focus on the latter and apply the psalm solely to our experience with God as sheep. But this ignores this important context and misses the richness of the developing historical redemptive drama played out in the rest of Scripture. Later in the prophets, Jeremiah and Ezekiel speak against the false shepherds of Israel and promise that one day God himself will come and seek out his sheep (Jer. 23:3; Ezek.  34:11) and set up David as the shepherd of God's flock (Ezek. 34:23). Fast forward to John 1:1, 14, where the Word, who is God, became flesh. That is, God himself came down to be with us. Then, in John 10 Jesus says he is the true shepherd, an unmistakable allusion back to these OT shepherd-sheep passages. So, Jesus, who himself is God, is the true shepherd. In Jesus, God himself came to seek and save his flock in fulfillment of Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 34. Like David before him, John tells us that Jesus, the Shepherd King, is himself a sheep (Jn. 1:29). Bringing this all together, Psalm 23 points forward to Jesus coming as the true Davidic Shepherd King who came to rescue his sheep. How did he do this? The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (Jn. 10:11). The Good Shepherd became a sheep so that through his death we might be brought safely home.

To complete the picture, Psalm 23 points beyond John 10 to the day when we will finally be brought to our eternal home, where the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be our Shepherd forever (Rev. 7:17).

Bill

Posts 21
Dan Anderson | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Sep 19 2009 12:01 PM

I have enjoyed reading the thoughts that each of you have brought to this discussion and was compelled to add my own.

As I think about this passage my thoughts are drawn to the fact that John included specific stories to guide the reader to the conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah(John 20:30-31). So when this question is raised I, with Christian, have to ask what is it that I should be learning about God from this story. We know that this story is a sign (v11) and that the Jews were seeking a sign (v18). In fact the Old Testament is full of signs from God, some large and some personal.

What I find interesting is that the religious leaders were looking for that big showy flash and instead, as with Christ’s birth God gave them something small, quiet, and invisible to the world at large. Had not John written about this miracle, it would have been lost among the insignificant and unimportant.

What I learn and what I believe that John is teaching is that God is personal. Though we know it happened, there is no way of laying a finger on the exact moment the miracle took place. We are privileged to be with John and the few who witnessed the event. It is important to note that they are all in the place of servants (v5) and that only those who were in the place of service knew of the need(v3).

There are many aspects of the story that merit consideration for us as application. The need for real Joy in marriage, the way that Jesus turned old human instruments of ceremonial cleansing into containers of God’s joyous blessing; but for me at least, and I believe John, the message is that God is intrusting to, we servants, the task of carrying a miracle to those who do not even know they need one.

As with this blog, we few have come to enjoy that most of the world will never see, so it was with this miracle and the work of God in the hearts of the few that day. Not loud and showy but humble, personal and effective.

Thanks again

Dan

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Sep 19 2009 12:08 PM

Robert Pavich:
Even what i just wrote....but the question always is; where do we stop?

That is a good question - one that applies to nearly every technique. Think of  Nameless, Blameless, and Without Shame: Two Cannibal Mothers Before a King (Interfaces series) by Gina Hens-Piazza as an example of extreme analysis that works well. However, I am a fan of allegorical reading as one element of scriptural analysis. On the Antioch/Alexandria rift The Power of the Word: In the Worshiping Church by John Breck has a great introduction.

The answer to "where do we stop" however, is manageable by criteria such as "rooted in the plain meaning," "compatibility with Tradition," etc. There have been times and people where it has been taken to the extreme, but those are the exception. In some ways, intertextuality and post-modern interpretation slip allegory back into analysis under a more acceptable "modern" guise.

Robert Pavich:
I think that grammar, syntax, historical context, and overall context carry a lot more weight than any allegorical suppositions.

I would agree that the tools to get to the plain meaning carry more weight than any suppositions - note I left out the qualifying "allegorical". However, here you imply a premise that I can't agree with - that scripture study is document (text) study. It can be that and appropriately needs to be that under certain circumstances. But it is also to be the Word of God spoken here and now for the first (eternal) time - here the emphasis is on the spoken word, listening, conversation. In this context, I like to say that God may use scripture as a springboard to speak to me what I need to hear. This is the content for which I see allegory, intertextuality, deconstruction etc. as the most useful. Again, Tradition, scriptural unity, plain meaning, etc. provides some boundaries but they are very wide. Gemetria takes this to an extreme. Note: I find gemetria interesting to muse over but "too far out there" to believe or to use as basis for belief.

Robert Pavich:
I believe that trying to get to the "authorial intent" just precludes this approach.

I have concerns with the contemporary emphasis on "authorial intent.":

  • First, I don't see sufficient consideration taken of the interpretative framework at the time the text was written i.e. how the author expected his text to be interpreted.
  • Second, I have doubts that the interpretative framework used in the New Testament meets our modern criteria for "authorial intent."
  • Third, I have doubts that all human writers of scripture were aware that they were writing scripture and, therefore, that their intent was to be interpreted as scripture. God's intent ... well I won't start that argument
  • Fourth, because I belief that Scripture is the living word of God not just a bound text, I find the image of listening with all my interpretative resources at hand (dictionaries, commentaries, diagrams, etc.) delightfully ludicrous. Picture meeting God at Starbucks and putting all the interpretative tools between oneself and actually listening Big Smile

I just had a politically dangerous thought that I may retract on further reflection. Could it be that our trying to tame the meaning of Scripture so that it can be determined by the human intellect following interpretative rules is our way of taming God - keeping Him in safe boundaries?

I might post some resources on the meaning of Scripture later today - depends on the state of the documents and my time.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Sep 19 2009 11:18 PM

MJ. Smith:
I might post some resources on the meaning of Scripture later today

I posted some that were stacked up in my bookmarks. As usual, I'm interested in comments and additions. This combined with the Logos topic data points out the need for Logos to consider some form of web page archiving to assure quality of links.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Ken McGuire | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Sep 20 2009 11:29 AM

Quick off the top of my head, I would put Jn 2 in with the _many_ feeding miracles picking up the images from many of the prophets of the great messianic feast.  One of the key signs of the messianic age is feeding the people, and so it is foreshadowing of the rest of the story. (Jn 4 and 6 come to mind)

Jesus is already named as the Lamb of God by John the Baptist back in 1.29, and Jesus's mission is always connected with his end, and so his hour (when he is lifted up) has not come.  Later in chapter 2, Jesus speaks of "destroying the temple", which we are to understand has his death, but his saying is not understood.  A basic part of John's story telling is to kinda say it in circles, circling around Jesus as the messiah of God, transforming everything as we understand things in the light of Jesus's life, death, and victory over death.  Of course, since not all the story has been told yet, this does not make sense to the people in the story yet, and we are shown a pile of people mis-understanding Jesus.

Like the Synoptics, Jesus's kingdom is a party, but it is a weird party.  It is not of this world (as Jesus tells Pilate later) but, it comes to this world in the incarnation in Jesus (Jn 1) as a gift.

I haven't really spent much time studying this passage, but perhaps this will give you some clues as to where to look.

Ken McGuire

 

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Ken McGuire | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Sep 20 2009 11:54 AM

Ah - hermenutical theory.  People much smarter than I have discussed this, and sometimes actually shed light on it.  Historically I have not really settled out all my internal tensions.  As a Lutheran, I have inherited a skeptical view of things allegorical, and yet, as a Lutheran, I also want to attach myself much more to the Alexandrian Christological readings which developed into allegorical readings much more than Antioch.

And so, a few years ago I returned to some of the source - Origen, and I found that for him Allegory was a tool to find Jesus in the Scriptures.  It is a dangerous tool, yes.  Do I think Origen read a bit too much into the Exodus stories as the story of our souls wandering in the desert?  Yes, when he seemed to turn it into a spiritual growth road map.  On the other hand, it is comforting to see Christ, as the organizing structure of the world (the Logos) guiding us throughout our lives, even when we are lost in the desert.

On the other hand, I have read and heard too many allegorical or psychological readings that seem to use this tool to ignore Christ, and instead use it for parenting or business tips from scripture...  In Lutheran speak, we confuse Law and Gospel by ignoring Christ and because we fail to use the merits of Christ, we speak as if our theology would be ok with leaving him in the tomb.

Really, we churches of the Reformation have at least as much of a problem with doing this as does Rome.

Ken McGuire

The Gospel is not ... a "new law," on the contrary, ... a "new life." - William Julius Mann

L8 Anglican, Lutheran and Orthodox Silver, Reformed Basic, Academic Essentials

L7 Lutheran Gold, Anglican Bronze

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Sep 20 2009 2:42 PM

Kenneth McGuire:
use this tool to ignore Christ, and instead use it for parenting or business tips from scripture

I couldn't agree more. One thing I like about Sofia Cavalletti's approach is her limiting typology to Christological, ecclesial and sacramental pairings. I must also admit to having read "inductive" Bible analysis that goes as far afield as allegorical readings.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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